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Working as an intern at Microsoft has many benefits, but a vacation in Hawaii is not usually one of them. This year, summer interns had an opportunity to work on exciting new mobile technologies, while competing with their peers for an all-expenses paid trip to one of the Hawaiian islands. Microsoft Research Connections—in partnership with Microsoft Research’s Mobile Computing Research Center and Windows Phone—hosted a first-of-its-kind intern competition: Hawaii XAPFest. The competition was open to all U.S.-based Microsoft interns. The challenge: develop Windows Phone apps by using Project Hawaii services and that make use of new consumer features coming in the next version of Windows Phone, code-named “Mango.”
All participants were trained in the key Windows Phone development areas to provide them with necessary background to complete the challenge. The training included a series of lectures about relevant Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft Silverlight, XNA, Project Hawaii services, and Windows Azure. Armed with this knowledge, each participating intern developed a Windows Phone app for submission to the evaluation committee comprised of researchers and developers from Microsoft Research and Windows Phone.
The final round of XAPfest judging took place on August 9, when finalists presented their projects to a panel of judges comprised of Microsoft executives. Each finalist was required to present their project to the judging panel and provide a live demonstration of their app. The judges selected the top four projects based on their creativity, presentation, use of Project Hawaii, and use of features in the next version of Windows Phone.
Top Award Winners
The grand-prize winner was Julia Schwartz, a second-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University and an intern with the Microsoft Research Human Computer Interface (HCI) group. Julia’s app, “Headshot,” uses facial detection and audio feedback to make it simpler to get the perfect self-portrait every time. Julia’s prize for this victory is a trip for two to Hawaii. Congratulations, Julia!
The top three runners up were:
All of the presentations we saw this year were very impressive, which made it tough to pick a final winner. The quality of work we saw from our participants demonstrates the innovation we continue to see with Windows Phone. I’m pleased to say I received overwhelmingly positive comments from contestants, who shared that they had a great time participating in this unique, exciting competition. Of course, the most excited of all is Julia, who started out working with Project Hawaii, and is now set to take off and see the “real” Hawaii!
—Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections
One of the core missions of Microsoft Research Connections is to support the creation of software tools that advance data-intensive science, especially those tools that are judged praiseworthy by their creators’ peers. With this in mind, we were pleased to present the first Microsoft Research Distinguished Artifact Award at ESEC/FSE 2011, the joint meeting of the European Software Engineering Conference and the ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering.
This new, competitive award honors the most outstanding software tool submitted to the ESEC/FSE series of conferences. As explained in the call for submissions, the Distinguished Artifact competition is intended to reward creation of artifacts and replication of experiments. An Artifact Evaluation Committee was established to review the submissions and to formally recognize those artifacts that pass muster and fast-track them for additional presentation. Artifacts deemed especially meritorious were singled out for special recognition in the proceedings and at the conference, and the creators of the best artifact received a prize of US$1,000, a handsome certificate, and a memento from the Pacific Northwest, the last a reminder of their friends at Microsoft Research Connections in Redmond, Washington.
Professor Andreas Zeller (left) presents the award to Jérôme Vouillon (right) while Christian Bird (center) of Microsoft Research looks on.
So, are you wondering which artifact took home the big prize? Well, wonder no more: the winning artifact was Coinst, an application based on the paper “On Software Component Co-Installability,” by Jérôme Vouillon of CNRS and Roberto Di Cosmo of Université Paris Diderot and INRIA. Coinst resolves the common and frustrating problem of finding co-installation conflicts; what’s more, it does so in a scientifically strong manner (by using a theorem prover), and it runs very effectively. Coinst not only satisfies all the expectations established in the paper, but exceeds them in several ways: by working quickly, performing better than presented in the paper, finding real errors in installed systems, and rapidly identifying frustrating problems that the reviewers have encountered in their own computer usage.
Professor Andreas Zeller of the University of Saarland, the initiator of the award, spoke about its importance, noting that "Far too often, researchers publish their results, but keep their data and tools for themselves. In the long term, this hurts science, because one cannot reproduce results or build on the achievements of others. Vouillon and Di Cosmo make their tools widely available and usable, providing value not only for other researchers, but for everyone. This way, they act as role models for the research community. With this award, we are proud to recognize their extraordinary efforts."
The winners themselves had this to say: “Free software components are growing at an astonishing pace, and it is important to identify quality issues quickly. We show how to efficiently extract from huge collections of free software a compact representation that quickly identifies component incompatibilities that would go otherwise unnoticed for a long time. We are thrilled to provide a tool based on a sophisticated algorithm that has been machine checked and that paves the way for the large-scale analysis and visualization of software component collections."
Well done, Jérôme and Roberto.
—Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research Connections
I’m thrilled to be part of a new phase of the partnership between Dean Kamen’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization and Microsoft (including the Microsoft Research Connections group). Last week, FIRST announced that Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 sensor and the Kinect for Windows SDK beta software will be included in the standard robotics Kit of Parts for the 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) season.
Dean Kamen, an American entrepreneur, inventor, and founder of FIRST, reveals Kinect as part of the 2012 FRC competition
FRC is a unique “Varsity Sport for the Mind,” which is designed to help young people discover the interesting and rewarding aspects of engineering and research, while challenging teams and their mentors to solve problems in a six-week timeframe by using a standard Kit of Parts and a common set of rules. The 2012 kit will include Kinect technology, enabling competitors to not just control the robot, but to “be the robot.”
By combining the Kinect technology with robotics, competitors will be able to control their robots by using a natural user interface—with potentially no joystick, game controller, or other input device required. Teams will have the option of programming their robots to respond to custom gestures that their human teammates create, or by using default code and gestures. Kinect will be beta tested by using robots built by FIRST students in the coming weeks in preparation for the 2012 competition.
“This is an awesome capability to incorporate into a robot,” said Bill Miller, director of FIRST Robotics Competition. “By working with Microsoft, we are able to provide FRC students with an additional high-level sensor capability, adding to the options for our students’ strategy on the field as well as delivering a unique robotics experience. This experience will take the competition to a new level, while also helping equip students with the skills and tools to innovate in the twenty-first century.”
During the 2011 season, 2,072 FRC teams, totaling 51,800 students, competed at 59 events in the United States, Canada, and Israel. Participants are eligible to apply for nearly US$15 million in scholarships at more than 140 colleges and universities. An estimated 60,000 competitors will have access to Kinect technology in the 2012 competition.
“By putting the amazing capabilities of the Kinect sensor in students’ hands, FIRST is able to provide a compelling and powerful new technology for the teams,” said Tony Hey, corporate vice president, Microsoft Research Connections. “With so many students already familiar with Kinect for Xbox 360 at home, in school, and lately even on their PCs via the Kinect for Windows SDK beta, I’m sure it will be a popular choice.”
We are honored to partner with the amazing FIRST organization and their thousands of student, educator, and parent participants. It is exciting to see so many young people inspired by these technologies and we look forward to being amazed by their creativity during the upcoming competition!
—Stewart Tansley, Director of Natural User Interface, Microsoft Research Connections